Mars Inc. activates at Meijer and Walmart as brand’s caramel product debuts nationally

Mars Inc.’s caramel-filled M&M’s recently hit shelves across the U.S. The manufacturer focused heavily on mass merchants for the debut, giving Meijer an early launch window and Walmart an extensive P-O-P program.

The candy landed in Meijer stores on April 23, weeks ahead of the May 11 national release. Meijer previewed the launch on April 19 with a 23-minute live Facebook broadcast from the brand’s factory in Topeka, Kansas. The event was hosted by Bobby Parrish of the FlavCity YouTube channel and pop musician Maddi Jane. An April 18 Twitter update previewed the video, which had been viewed more than 551,000 times as of May 28. Parrish shared a new recipe for no bake caramel M&M’s truffles during the broadcast while Jane debuted a song.

In the confectionery aisles of stores, floor clings touted the candy as “coming soon.” Post-launch, the candy was stocked on a dedicated endcap and a pallet display in Meijer’s action alley. A web page within Meijer.com supports the launch and had offered a 50- cent mPerks digital coupon valid through May 27.

At Walmart, violators positioned next to existing M&M’s products in the confectionery aisle teased the candy’s imminent arrival. After its launch, the brand secured secondary merchandising space at various locations in stores.

Multiple configurations of a custom pallet display adorned with Walmart’s blue “new” logo landed the caramel candy both upfront near checkout and further within the store around the racetrack. The displays are shoppable from all four sides.

Heavily targeting shoppers waiting to check out, the brand also commands upfront space on the retailer’s four-way racks outfitted with a side panel touting the new flavor. M&M’s even enables impulse purchases of the caramel candy in the personal care department, where custom shelf trays command a dedicated endcap outfitted with a header and accompanying floor cling.

The manufacturer’s MyConfectionCorner.com website proclaims that “now caramel is more fun than ever” and streams social media feeds employing the official #unsquarecaramel launch hashtag (though fans are heavily employing an #mmscaramel hashtag). “Buy now” buttons for a single “sharing size” bag or 24-pack link to corresponding e-commerce product pages within Walmart.com. The retailer’s website also hosts a display ad carrying a “buy now” link.

M&M’s Launch Gets Mass SupportThe caramel M&M’s are the first “filling” to permanently join the brand’s lineup. Mars’ consumer research showed the candy as having the highest purchase intent of any M&M’s brand variant ever, and the manufacturer expects it to drive total category incremental sales by providing a new reason to shop for chocolate, according to reports.

Among national marketing support, M&M’s used an attention-grabbing marketing tactic on the candy’s general launch day by handing out samples at an event in New York’s Times Square that transformed billboards into an augmented reality vintage gaming arcade using the mobile application Blippar. Consumers can still scan packages of the caramel candies with the app to unlock the experience, which is intended to provide the same nostalgic feeling as is represented by the caramel flavor.

The launch campaign from BBDO New York also included TV spots as well as print, digital and outdoor ads.

In other category news, Mars rival Hershey Co. also recently rolled out a major new product: the Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch bar. Like caramel M&M’s, Hershey’s new treat also received some of the highest consumer testing scores of any product the company has ever launched.

For its launch, the brand commanded secondary merchandising space across channels on a variety of displays with similar creative, including four-ways outfitted with side panels at Walmart, table displays at Walgreens, a pallet display at Sam’s Club, shelf trays at CVS/pharmacy, case stacks at supermarkets such as Kroger and Albertsons Cos.’ Jewel-Osco, floorstands at Target, racks at Speedway and power wings at Dollar General. TV (Havas/Arnold Worldwide), print and digital advertising supported the launch.

Both products were first unveiled at the National Association of Convenience Stores annual show last fall.